Unnecessary marital counselling from a thrice-divorced person is...?
April 26, 2014 3:58 AM   Subscribe

Is there a word or a pithy turn of phrase that can be used to describe those who take it upon themselves to offer unsought critique, ridicule, counsel or lecture others for failings the listener doesn't really have when the counsellors themselves are dramatic examples of those failings? For example, how would you describe a penniless 47-year-old who loftily lectures others who are comfortably well off on how to manage their money, or an anti-vaxxer or Rob Ford supporter who sneers at those on the other side of these issues for being naive or ignorant? The best I can do is "obnoxiously unselfaware", but it seems to me there might be a better and more specific term.
posted by orange swan to Human Relations (58 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
posted by atlantica at 4:04 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hypocrite doesn't seem quite right to me. There's usually an element of pretense or deception in hypocrisy, as you can see from the Merriam-Webster definition. A hypocrite poses as what he is not, i.e., the married megachurch minister who preaches against fornication and homosexuality while secretly getting it on with the pool boy. I'm thinking more of those who honestly think they have an advanced comprehension of the topic they're holding forth on when everyone else can see that they plainly don't.
posted by orange swan at 4:18 AM on April 26, 2014

These examples sound to me like either "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" or "Pot calling the kettle black". Maybe just self-righteous?
posted by Atalanta at 4:22 AM on April 26, 2014

posted by headnsouth at 4:24 AM on April 26, 2014

posted by amro at 4:25 AM on April 26, 2014 [10 favorites]

Demonstratively uninformed.
posted by Wordshore at 4:25 AM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would refer to this as teaching their granny to suck eggs. Not a perfect match, though, because it's a bit more about the listener's greater experience and competence than the speaker's incompetence.
posted by pie ninja at 4:27 AM on April 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Projection? Although that describes the act rather than the person.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:33 AM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Women can do it to, but mansplaining?

There's more to what you're asking than that, though . . . I'm sure there's a word for it in German!
posted by mibo at 4:33 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Looks like ol' Bob is Dunning his Kruger again."
posted by penguinicity at 4:37 AM on April 26, 2014 [17 favorites]

I'm sure there's a word for it in German!

Heh, when I was composing this question I was thinking there must be too!

Horses' asses.

See also "pompous ass". I was just looking for something a little more polite and erudite.
posted by orange swan at 4:38 AM on April 26, 2014

Maybe simply "crank"?
posted by 99percentfake at 4:38 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by kewb at 4:39 AM on April 26, 2014

posted by marimeko at 4:42 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Physician, heal thyself!
posted by przepla at 4:47 AM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with penguinicity's reference to the Dunning Kruger effect. Here's an excerpt from a wonderful article about it:
People who do things badly, Dr. Dunning has found... are usually supremely confident of their abilities -- more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.

One reason that the ignorant also tend to be the blissfully self-assured, the researchers believe, is that the skills required for competence often are the same skills necessary to recognize competence.

The incompetent, therefore, suffer doubly, they suggested in a paper appearing in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

''Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it,'' wrote Dr. Kruger...

This deficiency in ''self-monitoring skills,'' the researchers said, helps explain the tendency of the humor-impaired to persist in telling jokes that are not funny, of day traders to repeatedly jump into the market -- and repeatedly lose out -- and of the politically clueless to continue holding forth at dinner parties on the fine points of campaign strategy.
posted by alex1965 at 4:57 AM on April 26, 2014 [10 favorites]

posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:08 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

pot calling the kettle black.
posted by xarnop at 5:16 AM on April 26, 2014

I like "hypocrite." But a review of Shakespeare might give you that one character who is also gloriously oblivious. And then you can be like "he's so XXXXX-ish that I just can't take it!"
posted by Lornalulu at 5:21 AM on April 26, 2014

Those who can't do, teach?
posted by Behemoth at 5:21 AM on April 26, 2014

"Uneducated"? That is the first word that comes to mind. "Ignorant", which you mentioned above, also fits. Possibly "insecure" - why else would someone blather on about a topic they understand so little of, unless they were trying to convince themselves they knew perfectly well what they were doing and it was no fault of their own they failed.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 5:27 AM on April 26, 2014

Self deceived
posted by SyraCarol at 5:43 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Snazzy67 at 5:44 AM on April 26, 2014

I want a term that's accessible to all who hear it, so while "Dunning Kruger" is technically precise, it's not quite what I'm looking for.

Oooh, oooh, I love "gloriously oblivious"! I'll definitely be mentally tucking that one away for future use. But keep trying, people. We can perhaps do better yet.
posted by orange swan at 5:52 AM on April 26, 2014

They suffer from illusory superiority.

More pithy, and more fun, but definitely obscure: "Fremdschan"
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is often associated with Fremdschan, one of those delightful German tapeworm words that include Schadenfreude and Bandwurmwörter (“tapeworm words”).

Fremdscham (the noun) describes the almost-horror you feel when you notice that somebody is oblivious to how embarrassing they truly are. Fremdscham occurs when someone who should feel embarrassed for themselves simply is not, and you start feeling embarrassment in their place. It is at the heart of beloved “mockumentaries” such as The Office, Modern Family, or …

Congress? Hawes and Grazioplene go on:
Besides the emotional response, Fremdscham-inducing events and items also usually cause one to ask this question: “how on earth can these people be unaware of how stupid they are being right now?”
posted by taz at 5:59 AM on April 26, 2014 [32 favorites]

These people are blowhards, maybe?
posted by vrakatar at 6:02 AM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Mote and the Beam is not immediately accessible to anyone who hears it. Sadly that will be true of anything you take from religious scripture or Shakespeare or other classics. "Sadly" because their pithiness and in-group quality are what make them work. It's hard to invent something in English that has the zing of those old ones.
posted by BibiRose at 6:05 AM on April 26, 2014

A German word would be "Scheinwissen", loosely translated, "apparent/seeming/feigned knowledge".

Other thoughts - someone who has "delusions of competence" (a variant on the harsher "delusions of adequacy").

Or a Socratic variant: "some know that they know nothing, others are blissfully ignorant of the fact".
posted by labberdasher at 6:07 AM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

The problem with the pot calling the kettle black is that there's an element of accusation there that I think isn't applicable to your examples.

I'd go with "delusional" or perhaps "blind-spotted" which is not technically a word but I think describes the phenomenon.

Great question!
posted by sockermom at 6:12 AM on April 26, 2014

They don't practice what they preach.

They don't walk the walk (or perhaps they don't walk their talk).
posted by sockermom at 6:20 AM on April 26, 2014

I'd call it aggressively ignorant because bliss is the last thing to be found for the poor saps stuck with one of these boors droning on in the complete and erroneous brief that they are educating their victims rather than tormenting them.
posted by Bella Donna at 6:24 AM on April 26, 2014

Not pithy but, "You're disqualified from even having an opinion" should at least be understood.
posted by mono blanco at 6:41 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've sometimes used "secure about their insecurities" for this general attitude, but it doesn't quite capture the behaviour.

I think that these people are coming from an internally consistent point of view, where they think that their failures give a broader view than someone who has had only positive experiences. The thrice-divorced person might see their experience of having been married and divorced three times as offering a much broader and more authentic view of marriage than someone who has accidentally blundered into a successful marriage. I wouldn't personally agree with this, but it is more than simple ignorance or the Dunning-Kruger effect, as they genuinely believe that they have more to offer because of their experiences.

Perhaps "battle-hardened advice from the losing side" or something like that?
posted by Jabberwocky at 6:46 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

"A little learning is a dangerous thing"?

Courtesy of Alexander Pope.

(Doesn't quite match "hypocrisy" or "Dunning-Kruger" in terms of pithiness, but this is my sporting attempt at it...)
posted by Tsukushi at 6:48 AM on April 26, 2014

Isn't this situation exactly what this verse is about?
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
posted by amtho at 6:53 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Meddlesome may be a useful qualifier for some of the previous terms. Although leaving off the object may be effective as in "you're just a meddlesome ______ oh I just can't even say it", let others fill in.
posted by sammyo at 6:54 AM on April 26, 2014

What about "sanctimonious"?
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:35 AM on April 26, 2014

Dickens is full of characters like this!

How about "sophist"? These folks don't completely fit the definition, but they do teach virtue without practicing it.
posted by Wavelet at 7:45 AM on April 26, 2014

Oooh! There's also "anosognosic." Although that may be a bit unwieldy for casual conversation.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:48 AM on April 26, 2014

Aunt Amy
posted by ouke at 7:59 AM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I go with "rich." As in, "I found it a bit rich that Jim tried to tell me how to invest, when he's lost everything and declared bankruptcy four times."
posted by Liesl at 9:19 AM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

The word you're looking for is chutzpah.
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:31 AM on April 26, 2014

I'd call it a "Cliff Clavenism".
posted by coldhotel at 9:50 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Lynsey at 10:11 AM on April 26, 2014

I don't have a single word, but "a fish teaching a bird how to fly" (or vice versa with "swim") puts it succinctly, I think.
posted by tyllwin at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Clues from the clueless.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:00 AM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

The classic Star Wars "I'm out of it for a little while and everyone gets delusions of grandeur"?

And sometimes wisecracks do help find answers, because the wisecracks *are* the answer.
posted by susiswimmer at 11:12 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Realized I didn't answer the actual question, I responded with what I always say in my head when in conversations with folks like those you describe.

I like "Fremdschan" - with a brief explanation that it is that face palm embarrassment you feel for someone else when they are gloriously oblivious.
posted by susiswimmer at 11:21 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Arguably it could be a subset of "hlep" -- unrequested assistance that is basically flawed in a way that makes it counterproductive or actively harmful.
posted by sparktinker at 11:45 AM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

The advice giver who is "unaware that s/he is a perfect case in point."
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:02 PM on April 26, 2014

I have always referred to this as "preaching the unlearned lesson."
posted by Shouraku at 12:04 PM on April 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Irish phrase a "hurler on the ditch" (from the proverb "Is maith an t-iománaí an duine ar an chlaí" - "The man on the ditch is a great hurler". ) It refers to the sort of person who sits on the sidelines at a hurling match, giving opinionated and unsolicited advice to the players on the field.
posted by almodis at 2:18 PM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Polonial (as in, like Polonius, the king's advisor in Hamlet).
posted by headnsouth at 3:26 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Self-appointed expert.

or, to steal a phrase from Scott Adams, "Induhvidual."
posted by 4ster at 5:58 PM on April 26, 2014

posted by bricoleur at 6:33 PM on April 26, 2014

"backseat driver with a DUI"
posted by corb at 1:19 AM on April 27, 2014

An Otto?
posted by sidi hamet at 9:22 AM on April 27, 2014

Seems like this is the sort of thing best communicated with a folksy truism. Too bad I can't think of one right now.

Or you could reference "Ask Dr. Stupid" from Ren & Stimpy.

If you want to communicate directly to the unlearned person what you think of their advice, you'll have to be as clear as possible: "I'm not taking advice from someone who can't follow it themselves."
posted by the big lizard at 8:38 PM on April 28, 2014

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